Over the past two decades I’ve been fortunate to hike, bike, sea kayak, canoe, raft, even dogsled on trips around the globe, reporting on these adventures along the way.
I’ve met hundreds of people who came back from these journeys with unforgettable tales and the joy of knowing that they had just completed a monumental task, say biking around the Big Island of Hawaii or climbing Washington’s highest peak, Mount Rainier.
Yet, others were not so fortunate.
They told me they were ill prepared for the physical and mental challenge at hand and suffered from humiliation or, worse, a waste of money and the most unfortunate type of souvenir, an injury.
Don’t make the same mistake.
As more and more travelers take their finest adventures well beyond age 60, be sure to ask these four essential questions to an adventure tour operator before you book:
What level of fitness is really required?
Ideally, find an adventure that suits your ability and prior experience in the sport. Websites try to appeal to everyone so it’s imperative to speak to an actual person and get a feel for the trip.
Is this hike an obstacle course better suited for a Marine Corps sergeant, a stroll in the park, or somewhere in between? How many hours a day will we be biking?
Ask specific questions that pertain to your personal background.
Here’s a good example: “I only work out two times a week on an elliptical. Will I be able to make this 12,000-foot climb?”
How do I get my mind and body ready?
Now that you know what’s in store, prepare beforehand. Don’t wait until the last minute to condition and assume you’ll be ready for anything. You won’t.
If you plan on taking a weeklong biking or walking outing, begin aerobic activity four to six weeks in advance, two to three times a week. Get your body used to the routine.
I’ll never forget a bike trip in Vermont where I was talking to a Brooklyn mailman who hadn’t been on two wheels in a very long time.
Find an adventure that suits your ability. Once you know what’s in store, train.
The next thing I know he fell into a ditch and chipped his tooth. Yikes.
Even if it’s a “No Experience Necessary” excursion, you should try the sport prior to your vacation and be in somewhat decent shape.
Just ask that large football coach from Texas Tech I met who realized he was too big to fit into his kayak after flying all the way down to Loreto, Mexico.
Is down time always a downer?
Biking outfitters love to offer a variety of bike loops to cater to every level of expertise.
What the catalogs fail to mention is that if you choose that 30-mile loop instead of the 60-miler, you might have to spend the rest of the day riding in the van shadowing the more advanced bikers instead of sipping Mai Tais in the resort’s Jacuzzi.
Check a detailed copy of the itinerary and ask about free time. Is every minute of the day accounted for or will I have time to shop and sightsee on my own?
And what happens when it rains?
Do you have a plan B or do you expect me to sit here in this small inn all day and watch my photographer jump rope (which happened to me on a sea kayaking inn-to-inn assignment in Maine)?
Will new friendships last a lifetime?
Spending so much time together with an intimate group of people achieving a physical goal, it’s easy to forge long-lasting friendships. Find a trip that best suits your needs, whether it’s with other singles or couples close to your age. Or you might end up like I did one time on a scuba diving jaunt to Matangi Island, Fiji. There were four honeymooning couples — and me — on the island. I pleaded with the scuba diving outfitter to please let me off the island after one night.
Now that you have some practical advice, here are three adventure vacations, each one unique travel experiences, that are worth exploring:
BIKING TUSCANY WITH CICLISMO CLASSICO
Lauren Hefferon, the Arlington-based owner of Ciclismo Classico, first started bringing bikers to her beloved Italy in 1988, long before it was trendy to bring bikers on inn-to-inn trips to the country.
For couples, especially in the fall, Hefferon recommends her six-day Assagio Toscana jaunt. Bike through the Tuscany foothills by the Arno River.
You’ll taste wine and olive oil from vineyards and orchards.
The trip ends in the village of Cortona, where “Under the Tuscan Sun” was filmed. www.ciclismoclassico.com/trips/bike-tour-tuscany/
BACKROADS MULTISPORT COSTA RICA
The outfitter, Backroads, first made its mark with inn-to-inn biking itineraries to locales in the wine country like Napa and Sonoma.
They soon jumped on the multisport caravan, offering other sports in addition to biking, like hiking, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, and sea kayaking.
On their six-day multisport jaunt to Costa Rica, you’ll sea kayak along the Pacific Coast, whitewater raft down the Río Savegre, take a naturalist-led hike to see the sloths, monkeys, and stick bugs of Manuel Antonio National Park, even try zip-lining atop the rain forest canopy. www.backroads.com/trips/MCRI/costa-rica-biking-hiking-tour.
ON SAFARI IN TANZANIA WITH EPIC PRIVATE JOURNEYS
Brad Horn founded Epic in 2003, after spending years as managing director and bush guide in Africa for Abercrombie & Kent.
The native Australian now takes people across the globe on customized journeys, but his specialty is the multigenerational safari to Tanzania.
Epic will get you close to the wildlife at Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, then add on a climb up Kilimanjaro or a sea kayak paddle off the shores of Zanzibar. www.epicprivatejourneys.com/destinations/africa/item/northern-tanzania